Last May, I wasn’t sure I had enough money to pay my bills. I needed to make some relatively radical changes to get things back on track. I gave myself a “no groceries challenge”. I told myself I would go as long as I could without going to the grocery store. I learned a great deal from the experience. Foremost among the lessons was that allowing myself the illusion that my “deprivation” was in some ways a choice made a big difference in my emotional comfort.
In August, I entered into a second “no groceries challenge.” I wasn’t in a financial crisis this time. I simply missed the way I addressed food and grocery shopping back when I had been in the first “challenge” and in the month or so after. During the challenge and soon after, I valued food more, I didn’t succumb to as much impulse buying, and I wasted a lot less food. Plus, it saved me money.
The second challenge, however, was different. I didn’t take it as seriously. I made exceptions almost right away. There was a different level of commitment and I think it was less valuable in many respects.
This month, my tax refund arrived. I’ve received payments from clients old and new. My alimony/child support came in. My bank accounts make it look like I’m on stable financial footing (relative to where I’ve been).
Someone online (can’t find the link) pointed out that a typical way to use personal hygiene items like razors or toothpaste is to use them liberally at the start (change out the razor when it seems like it might possibly, but not definitely, need it) and then with trepidation as the items are almost depleted (I’ll use this last razor until it has zero sharpness left before I buy new ones!). I think I have a similar relationship with money. When I have a “lot,” I’m more likely to spend it liberally—even when I know intellectually the “lot” of money is quite temporary come bill-pay time. When I have very little, my decisions about spending money are more in line with what I actually have.
This relationship with money makes sense, of course. If you have it, it’s more okay to spend it than if you don’t have it. But, as I build a foundation in my path toward financial stability I want to practice acting as if I still have almost nothing. As I said, in many respects I do still have very little. My improved situation will only get stronger if I try to live as if I have almost nothing.
As a part of this, I’m beginning a new “no groceries challenge.” I need to buy cat food, but other than that, I believe I’m ready to see how long I can go without going to the grocery store. I’ll use my pantry’s bulk goods that have been in their jars for so long; I’ll freeze the mangos if they start going too ripe before we have a chance to eat them; I’ll use leftovers with more zeal. I’ll also likely post about it here in an effort to keep myself on track. As it was with the first challenge, I feel energized and empowered. It feels like I’m already putting money in the bank.
My “regular” shopping complete, I went to Whole Foods for fancy things like prepared snacks for school lunch bags and bulk organic grains.
(If you’d like to read about my earlier “no groceries” challenges, you can click on the “no groceries” category, or click here.)